Learning & Tips on becoming carbon neutral

Wind Turbine and a Carbon Neutral logo

Our Journey to Carbon Neutral

We at Mainspring have just completed a project for the company to become carbon neutral. We thought it might be useful to share our learning and some tips for those organisations that are also considering becoming a carbon neutral company.

For context Mainspring is a nearly 50-person business that has 2 offices in the UK and which provides an entirely ‘office’ based professional service. So, no manufacturing, no assembly, no logistics distribution etc.

We set out on the project with Indos Financial at our side and leveraged their ESG service. Realistically we would not have been able to complete the project without a specialist consultancy to support us.

In summary the project took us 3 months to complete although we could have achieved this sooner, as the requirements from us were not that challenging. There’s an element of learning through doing this for the first time but also because the elapsed time and energy needed to drive the outcome was mainly because our suppliers and landlords were not set-up to handle the questions we were asking.

The steps we took to become carbon neutral were as follows:

Carbon neutral steps taken by Mainspring

Carbon Neutral – Calculating Carbon Emissions

We didn’t use a specialised system to capture and calculate the carbon emissions. Rather we started with a blank sheet of canvas or should I say blank excel workbook. We created a summary sheet and then separate sheets to calculate the carbon emissions for Offices, Business Travel, Cloud Infrastructure, and Staff remote working.

Our Offices

Our office landlords had not faced carbon emissions questions before and so needed to determine power consumption for each month and confirm total sq footage that was related to that meter. Not difficult in itself but power consumption information was not stored within our landlord’s records and was not readily available.

Here’s an extract of the email we sent:

“We are reviewing our leases to determine their carbon footprint to understand more about our impact on the environment and need your help in quantifying this.

Could you please confirm the Electricity AND gas utilities monthly information from January 01st 2020 to December 31st 2020 for our office space and the type of electricity tariff (Green energy or normal).

Could you please also confirm the Sq ft or Sq m floor space of the office we currently occupy.  If the utilities usage is not available specifically for our office space then could you confirm the floor space of the whole area covered by the relevant utility meter (perhaps whole building or per floor?)”

Business Travel

This was a much more detailed calculation, as we had to work out the business mileage of travel for every person for every trip, by car, train and plane.

  • For car expense reclaims we did not need to worry about whether diesel or petrol or hybrid but fully electric vehicles incur no emissions.
  • All trips within London are assumed to be a fixed distance
  • There is a big difference in emissions between plane travel per mile and anything else and hugely different depending upon the class of travel.

Cloud infrastructure

The key determinant is whether the data centre is itself already carbon neutral, for example all Microsoft Azure data centres are carbon neutral, Vodafone has converted several data centres to being carbon neutral. For any cloud infrastructure on carbon neutral data centres your task is complete and you have zero emissions for that cloud infrastructure. We were unsure and struggled to get confirmation on one data centre and therefore needed to undertake a detailed calculation based on reasonable assumptions. Determining a reasonable calculation methodology for virtual servers on a shared platform was the challenge we solved through the vendor estimating our proportional usage of the shared platform of the 3 core components, the servers, storage and core networking and then using the power rating of the device types and assuming usage characteristics during periods of each day. This provided us Mainspring’s calculated carbon emissions for this infrastructure.

Staff Remote Working

Through much of 2020 this has been unfortunately easy to determine as Mainspring adopted a full remote working service model at the outset of the Covid19 pandemic in March 2020.  Moving forward with a combined remote & office based service model this will be a little more difficult.  This was tracked by staff member by month

SAAS

It’s worth noting that applications and software that are procured under a software-as-service are out-of-scope for emissions calculations.

Side note learning: The more organisations ask to be hosted in ‘green’ datacentres the more likely those providers will see green as a necessary part of their service and the easier this will become for their clients’ carbon emissions calc.  Interestingly, the datacentre managers can themselves push their power suppliers to use green energy or buy the carbon offset themselves so the datacentre managers don’t necessarily have to buy the carbon offset themselves.

Carbon Neutral – Wrapping up

With the upfront work and with Indos’ support working through the calculation we completed:

  1. An independent audit of carbon emissions: This was carried out by ‘Carbon Footprint Limited’.
  2. Carbon offset project options were sent to all staff to vote in a survey and it was great to see a near 90% voter ‘turnout’.
  3. Carbon offsets were purchased through Carbon Footprint. There are many other carbon offset projects available, just keep an eye on ensuring they are accredited (CER, VER or VCS) and quality assured (QAS).

Background

In mid-2020 the Mainspring team decided that we wanted to embed ESG considerations into our business and the service that we provide to clients.  There were several drivers for this, on the business front we want to do more for Mainspring as a company and on a personal front we find that we are challenged more frequently at home as to what we are doing re global environmental concerns.

As Fund Administrator we are providing a service to clients and although they may not look to us for ESG leadership we wanted to show how we can help.  With ESG being such a broad area we wanted to get our own journey underway, as well as support our clients where we can with their ESG journey.

This is an Insight Article for the Mainspring Insight series.

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